Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. It is that time of year, once more. A time of joyful self-indulgence and oh so much stress for many people.
The latter has always struck me as interesting. Particularly for the very vocal “It is MERRY CHRISTMAS!” types. Aside from the short-sighted bigotry of the sentiment, it has always struck me as ironic. Once I grew out of the sheltered views of childhood and my teenage years, Merry or Happy are not words that are quick to come to mind when it comes to that stretch between December 23ed and January 3ed.
When I was a child, it was all magic and presents. When I was a teenager and the magic had faded, holidays were still something to look forward to. A time to go feast with extended family that one does not see very often.
In my late teens, this time was made somewhat awkward when I realized that I was more secular humanist (or Atheist, as I said back then) than Christian. Looking back now, none of my family took the religious element all that seriously to begin with. However, for someone exploring the world with a newly minted atheistic perspective, the often overt religiosity of it all was quite daunting. One doesn’t realize how even the most seemingly insignificant details can cause a stir. Almost a form of guilt.
Everything from nativity scenes to typical Christmas carols. When I no longer bought into the underpinning dogma of it all, it took a long time to figure out exactly how to navigate.
When I broke the barrier between being a minor and an adult, the awkwardness of the holidays was replaced by hatred. Working in various sectors of retail customer service played a very big part in this.
After Halloween (and Black Friday really, even though it’s not as pronounced in Canada) was the worst time of year.
The sheep would start the yearly ritual of shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Buying all kinds of crap that they may or may not be able to afford for who knows how many people. Spending on things that may or may not be useful (or even usable!) in 2 or 3 months from now. Copious amounts of both finite energy and resources spent on what amounts to little more than a yearly ritual.
An orgy of spending that is seen by most participants as giving, yet it often amounts to little more than being charitable to billionaires.
I used to stress over shopping, like many people. I often settled for the easy fix that is gift cards. Once, I paid a school friend to make personalized bead bracelets for all the aunts in my family. Most of which still have them (best money I ever spent on Christmas stuff). But generally, I was a standard consumer.
I hated shopping for gifts. I hated people shopping for gifts. By all accounts, it was baffling that the words Merry and Happy were at all associated with this time of year. Merry Christmas? Happy Holidays?
More like go FUCK YOURSELF!
In recent times, however, it occurs to me that much of my resentment of this time of year is tied to past perceptions, other peoples attitudes, and a bit of immaturity. I hated working on any holiday because it felt like a time that I should be doing anything but that. Particularly serving people. Don’t you people have other things to do than shop AGAIN?
As for the past, many of us romanticize the magic of our childhoods and teenage years. Before the innocence was lost, and the world was exposed as the smoldering hellhole that it is.
Nostalgia. Though the familiar is sometimes nice to revisit, it can never be relived. Such is the tragedy of the human psyche.
As for other people, there are many types of influencers. One of the biggest comes with the collective tragedy of the commons. Hundreds of annoyed self-serving consumers leaving a negative wake everywhere they go, oblivious to their contribution to the continued degradation of all that is civil. No matter what side of the service economy one resides, all but the most reclusive hermits have to deal with this macro.
Then there are the never satisfied. Those that hold a very narrow view of what Christmas and this kind of year should be. If not all traits are met to their satisfaction, they will mope and write off the season even before it arrives. Often times these standards are based on childhood experiences as well, so there is likely no appeasing them. Just listening to endless whining about how Christmas is over before it even begun.
And lastly, are the exceptionalists. Those with an ingrained view of what a happy, joyous and fruitful holiday looks like based on experience. They love this time of year, and all it brings and represents. So much so that they can not fathom any other way. At times to the point of flat-out bigotry.
People are often obnoxious, self-serving and without a 2ed thought. The less you allow them to influence your day to day existence, the better you are for it. Be it regarding the holidays, or anything else really.
Taking this all into account, this year’s holiday leadup has actually been fairly smooth. In other ways, it has been a terrible year. But for once in a very long time, I don’t recall ever looking back and wishing it just to be 2018 already.
As many an Atheist will tell you, most of what is so sacred about the Christian tradition that is Christmas, is stolen. Hell, much of the religion itself can be traced back to predating stories, myths, and ideologies. So feel no hesitation about changing so-called sacred traditions. Because They are no more sacred than anything from The Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter.
It is whatever you make of it. Be it a capitalist spending orgy, or just a day to kick up your feet and write a blog post that few will read.